Invest Hamilton County

Memos From Mike

Are Your People Actually Quitting their Job?
April 1, 2022

Are your people actually quitting their job?

My real question for today… are people leaving your organization leaving the position (or even type of position) they had before the pandemic?

The Great Resignation, as the massive migration within our economy has been coined… represents a significant shift of labor between positions. 

We all know someone who has made a HUGE change… they work in a completely different field, they decided to start a business, they pulled out of the workforce entirely and now live in a motorhome traveling around the country (or are doing something similar while working remote). The change in our societal norms brought on by the pandemic has made these stories more accepted, more shared and more encouraged, but on the whole these massive changes represent a small minority of the overall labor shift our economy is experiencing. 

A paper published late last week by the Federal Reserve of San Francisco claims that this a-typical period of labor migration we’re experiencing is actually not atypical at all! They cite data from periods of economic recovery in the 50s, 60s, and 70s to show that when employment recovers at a rapid pace and wages rise, so do quits. People feel more secure leaving a position when they know they can find another job (that pays more money) easily. They suggest, “the combination of near-record quits with near-record job openings suggests workers aren’t walking out en masse, but instead switching jobs for higher wages, better working conditions, or better work-skillset matchups.”

It’s the last one of these that has me thinking deep this week. We know from multiple consecutive Indiana Chamber Workforce Surveys and corresponding research that the most frequent adaptation to the labor shortage since 2015 (yes… it’s not that new for most industries) has been to have “employees perform additional job functions.”

During the pandemic, employees accepted this out of necessity as many saw coworkers laid off en-masse while, dependent on industry, their workload actually grew. Many companies found they could be just as productive with less people and resolved to run leaner operations while maintaining fiscal prudence. Employees who were just grateful for a job kept their heads down and worked hard. 

But as the world opened back up, the economy continued on a record-setting pace and consumer demand kept right up with it, how many employees saw a reversion to their old roles, or had the items forced onto their plate taken off of them? How many saw positions opening up at their own companies that paid more, or (in their minds) could have been used to take on some of that load?

This is a dialogue a loyal, productive employee would rarely initiate themselves as it represents conflict. They likely are proud of their role in helping a company survive, or even thrive, during the turbulence of the past few years, but now their new normal is one they feel stuck in, and when suddenly an open position flashes across their screen that matches all the things they used to love doing, with none of the new they don’t, and pays more money, it is hard to resist the opportunity for a hard reset. In their head, they get everything they want with no negotiation, no compromise, and minimal conflict…. (the grass may not actually be greener, but that is a whole other topic). 

Well gosh Mike… why don’t we all just accept it and roll over? 

Because you don’t have to… 

If you know you have these roles currently in your business… here are a few things you can do:

Examine job descriptions from when people were hired, then have them update it themselves to show what they actually do now. If you see significant divergence in the skills or types of tasks being performed… that is a red flag, and one that should initiate further conversation. 

People don’t need to leave you to experience the relief of a hard reset… instead when you know someone is feeling stretched and looking for a change… help them build the role they want their next job to be with you. Make them feel important, culturally instill investment, and press the reset button together